Students Present Research at Scholarship Symposium

More than 300 students from across Union’s campus presented research Tuesday at the Scholarship Symposium. 

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations005Ashley Akerson, art

Ashley presented research on the importance of African-American art. She said African-American art has been seen as insignificant or inferior, but it has had great influence on culture and art.

 “African-Americans began to develop a distinctive voice to tell the story that was different than any other American story.”

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations018 Gray Magee, cell and molecular biology

Gray’s research involved a regeneration method for African mahogany, an endangered tree. He researched a process called organogenesis, where hormones are added to mature leaf tissue to create calluses which can produce viable plants.

“If we can come up with a technique of organogenesis, this could have a significant impact on the African economy.”

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations011 MiKalla Cotton, Christian ministry and missions

MiKalla presented her research paper titled “Created to Create: Why Do We Create.” She said people create because they are made in the image of a creator, and creativity manifests itself in different ways.

“Men and women reflect the image of the creator through making something of the world they have been given. Not only is creativity a reflection of our creator, but it also allows us to reflect him to the world around us and build up the community of creative minds in our midst.”

Read more about the Scholarship Symposium in our news release.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody, Elizabeth Wilson and David Parks.

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Meet Our Students – Part 2

Union students work hard and set lofty goals. They enjoy building community, pursuing leadership roles and having fun. Here are just a few of the stellar students we would like you to meet.

Part 1


Reeves Garrett

Reeves Garrett – Biblical Studies major from Brownsville, Tennessee

“I like that Union’s community as a whole is pretty organic. Students build relationships because we’re a small campus – small enough that you can know a lot of people but big enough that you can always meet someone new.”

Learn more about Reeves here.



Emily Easter

Emily Easter – conservation biology major from Hendersonville, Tennessee

“I left Union [the day that I visited], and I remember thinking, ‘How am I ever going to decide where I want to go to school if every college campus feels like this?’ And none of the other ones ever did.”

Read more of Emily’s story here.




Joshua Stucky

Joshua Stucky – mathematics and computer science major from Maryville, Tennessee

“Having the skills that you learn in upper level mathematics allows me to better engage in theological discussions and philosophical discussions about God’s nature.”

Read more about Joshua here.

South African Choir Visits Union

Over the past two weeks, the chamber choir from the University of Limpopo in Limpopo, South Africa, has been performing, sitting in on classes and learning about Union’s music program.


“We are here to share experiences,” said Thabe Matsebatlela, director of the choir. “It has been an opportunity for us to gain a wider view of music and culture and share our music with other musicians here.”

Matsebatlela has a doctorate degree in biology and teaches biochemistry, life sciences and medicine at the University of Limpopo. He met Chris Mathews, professor of music and department chair, when they sang in choirs together during his studies at Clemson University.

He started the chamber choir in 2010, but Limpopo does not have a music program. He said one of the goals of the visit to Union was to learn about how a formal music program operates at a university so he can start one at Limpopo.

The chamber choir consists of about 60 members. Aza Ngcwabe, the chairperson of the choir, is studying economics. She said music is a valuable part of her life, and she sees it as more than a hobby.

“Music takes you into a different world,” she said. “If I am anxious or sad, all emotions go away when I am in the music.”

Ngcwabe said she is interested in American music and the way it is performed. She said she has enjoyed seeing how a music department operates.

Tebele Letsoala was the first chairperson of the choir. He works in computer science in Johannesburg but was invited to join the choir on its visit to Union. He said sitting in on classes and performances at Union has changed his way of thinking about music.

“What is most exhilarating is the way we are being received,” Letsoala said. “The students here are fascinated by our music, as we are fascinated by theirs.”

In addition to classes at Union, the choir visited local schools and performed for their students. Matsebatlela said the best part of the experience has come outside the structured class and performance times.

“The students have met many people,” he said. “They have had a wonderful time interacting outside the music.”

Matsebatlela said he is excited to take what the students have learned back to Limpopo and incorporate it into their work there.

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody and Gretchen Foels


The Limpopo choir checks out their feature in the local newspaper, The Jackson Sun, before boarding the bus to perform at Jackson Christian School.


The choir rehearses songs in Jennings Hall with Chris Mathews.

Students Invited into Faculty, Staff Homes for Be Our Guest

Six students gathered around a meal of beef bourguignon, risotto and homemade bread at David and Nancy Thomas’ home last week.


The meal was part of Be Our Guest, where faculty and staff invite students into their homes for an evening of food and fellowship. More than 20 faculty and staff members had students in their homes as part of the event.

“Be Our Guest allows the faculty and staff another way to care for the students,” said Grace Pepper, senior English literature major. “By welcoming us into their homes, preparing delicious food and engaging us in lively conversation, they demonstrate their desire, even outside of the classroom, to cultivate relationships with us.”

Grace, one of the students at the Thomas’ house, said she especially enjoyed the conversation at the dinner table, which ranged from Neil Young to the Memphis botanical gardens to Seinfeld. She has been a guest at the Thomas’ house for the past three years, and she said they are always generous and hospitable.

“My evenings at their home have become some of my favorite in my time at Union,” Grace said. “The company is always most delightful, and the food is an added bonus.”

Beth Adams, junior English and history major, was also a guest at the Thomas’ home.

Beth chose to go to their house after getting to know Dr. Thomas through his class on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

“I love any opportunity to talk with both Dr. and Mrs. Thomas,” she said. “My favorite part of the evening was after dinner, when we all ventured into the living room to browse their bookshelves and share book recommendations.”

Beth said she was glad to see every student included in the conversation. She said Be Our Guest demonstrates that Union’s faculty and staff care genuinely for their students.

“When faculty and staff members take time to connect with students outside of the classroom, we students learn so much more,” she said.

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody


Meet Our Alumni – Part 1

Union University is known for shaping the next generation of great leaders. Our alums go on to elite graduate schools, meaningful careers and mission and ministry opportunities around the world. There are scores of Union alums doing amazing things, and here are some we would like you to meet.


“Union gave me the confidence to apply for opportunities that were outside my comfort zone. I had always been a good student, but Union really helped me thrive as a leader. It’s the combination of a small student body, really supportive professors, spiritual growth and great opportunities within campus — I felt like I could try new things and succeed.” – Claudia Valasco (’13) – Client Solutions Manager, EMC Corp., London  

Learn more about Claudia’s work with EMC Corp here.


“Union allows you to feel valued. I felt that I truly mattered as a member of this community and, in turn, it gave me a desire to serve that community. Union felt like home.” – James Barbee (’13) – Math Teacher, Lauderdale Middle School, Ripley, Tenn.

Read more about James’ goals as an educator here.


“Choosing a college is one of the most significant decisions you will make, because the friendships and relationships you form in college are likely going to be some of the most important and lasting relationships you’ll have throughout your life. And I can’t think of a better place than Union University to find and form those kinds of relationships. Not to mention, you’ll receive a top-tier Christian education at one of the finest undergraduate institutions in the country.” – Justin Wainscott (’02) – Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.

Learn more about Justin’s journey to becoming a pastor here.

Scholars of Excellence Share Experiences

About 100 high school seniors took part in the Scholars of Excellence program at Union last weekend. The students competed for Union’s top academic scholarships through personal interviews, group discussions of C. S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man” and hot topic discussions about current events and controversies.


Scholars of Excellence Check-in

The competitors stayed in campus housing with student hosts and participated in campus activities throughout the weekend.

Alli Herring, a participant from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said she was glad to have the opportunity to learn more about Union’s campus and goals over the weekend. She said she was nervous about the interviews, but it was a good experience.

“Everyone is just so friendly and wants to talk to you and learn about where you’re from and what your plans are,” she said.

Ben Noland, a student from Pensacola, Florida, said he heard about Union after reading an article by Dr. Hal Poe in Christianity Today. He said he was hoping to get a better picture of Union’s values over the weekend.

“I can say I’ve been incredibly impressed,” he said. “The students and professors are so incredibly kind.”


Dinner with faculty and the president

Harrison Holt, a Jackson native, said he has spent a lot of time around Union and its students, and he thinks it would be a good fit for him.

“A lot of my mentors have been Union students,” he said. “So I thought it was worth my time to come here. A lot of the people I’ve had interactions with are people I want to be like.”

Olivia Coffman of Milan, Tennessee, said she has also been aware of Union for most of her life, and has always thought highly of the university. She said she enjoyed staying in student housing and meeting other students.

“Everybody was able to speak about God just in natural conversation because he’s such a big part of their lives,” she said. “It was really nice to feel so accepted and loved instantly.”


Personal interview time and games in the waiting area

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody

Hundley Center Moves to More Inviting Location


Renee Jones, director of the Hundley Center for Academic Enrichment, said many students have been disconnected and had a negative perception of the Hundley Center, and the center’s new location should help remedy that.

The Hundley Center moved from the upper level of the old library to a downstairs location on the main hallway near Union Station in the Penick Academic Complex earlier this year.

“The Hundley Center is not just a place that you go when you are stressed out academically,” she said. “Smart people start here.”

Jones said she would encourage all freshman students to visit the Hundley Center as soon as they start college. She said she wants to see the center become part of the norm.


“We are here to lay a foundation that is strong and fertile and prepare students to flourish,” Jones said.

The Hundley Center has more than 20 faculty-recommended peer tutors in more than 30 subjects. Jones said most students are familiar with the center’s peer tutoring program, but they don’t realize that it offers much more.

The Hundley Center offers a grad school prep series, test preparation for tests such as the GRE, LSAT and MCAT, and academic coaches.

“We will have students map out their entire academic plan so they know where they’re going and how to get there,” Jones said.

She said the main purpose of the Hundley Center is to support the efforts of faculty and bridge the gap between the classroom and understanding the material.


Jones said the new space will allow more students access to the Hundley Center’s resources. The space is split into two sides: quiet study areas and group study areas. She said any student is welcome to study there, and she will continue to make the center more accessible and accommodating.

“We want to equip every student to succeed at the university level,” Jones said. “God gives us all gifts, and we want to help students unveil them and cultivate them.”

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody


Meet Our Faculty – Part 1

Union University attracts some of the nation’s leading Christian intellectuals. They are dedicated to classroom teaching, mentorship, collaboration and the success of their students. Here are some faculty members we would like you to meet.



Julie Glosson – Professor of Language

“The best way to meet somebody and get to know them is through language.”

Learn more about why Julie Glosson is passionate about teaching language here.







Sean Evans – Professor of Political Science and Department Chair

“Part of what I like to do here is prepare students for an increasingly secular world to where they can maintain their faith but also advance the kingdom in politics or whatever else their chosen profession or career is.”

Read more about Sean Evans’ experience with Christianity and politics here.





Zoila Sanchez – Professor of Nursing

“At this university, whether as a student or a professor, I am encouraged to form these Christian relationships and share the love of Christ in the classroom.”

Learn more about Zoila Sanchez’s role in the School of Nursing here.

First Snow of 2016

Over the weekend, our three campuses were blanketed with a coat of snow. This was the first snow of the year, and some students here for January term took advantage of the opportunity to have snowball fights and build snowmen. Here are some of our favorite photos from Friday and Saturday.

1D4_0474_5_6_7 High

Photo of Hendersonville campus by Don Claussen, Trap the Light Photography



First snow for The Logos library




Photos submitted by Kayla McKinney



Photos submitted by Kayla McKinney



Photos by Kristi Woody

Meet Our Students – Part 1

Union students work hard and set lofty goals. They enjoy building community, pursuing leadership roles and having fun. Here are just a few of the stellar students we would like you to meet.



Daniel Roberts – accounting major from Germantown, Tennessee

“I felt as if the community at Union cared about growing me as a whole instead of just giving me a degree. I saw how much the faculty wanted to relate to me spiritually, academically and relationally. After the past three years, I can see exactly why Union was such a great decision.”

Learn more about Daniel here.




Eugenia Nestico – public relations major from Monroe, Washington

“It wasn’t until I came during registration that the Lord truly made it clear that this was where I needed to go. I was expecting it to be somewhat different from how it was portrayed online, but to my surprise, it remained very true to all I had read about it and heard from family and friends.”

Read more of Eugenia’s story here.




Adam Reinhard – nursing major from Martin, Tennessee

“My favorite thing about Union is the people here. I have made lifelong relationships and built some incredible friendships.”

See more about why Adam loves Union here.